Health & Sanitation

  • Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. That’s wrong. We all have the right to clean water. Oxfam is providing life-saving clean water, and sanitation and hygiene education in some of the world’s poorest countries, as well as in areas struck by humanitarian crises.

Dear EU Leaders: Look at me

By Amal, Moria hotspot, Lesvos, Greece

 

Dear EU Leaders,

Spring has arrived- warming our bodies and our hearts. However, the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek Island of Lesvos, is still cold and prison-like. I have been in Moria for seven months now since I arrived in Europe, and there is only one thing I can be certain of is that I will be stuck here for a long time. I have requested asylum in Europe, but the next hearing for my case is 18 months away.

I invite all European politicians to visit us, to witness our hardship, and to see what life is like when your fate is in the hands of others – in your hands. Your hands are not tied – more humane migration policies can help us and give people here the protection, support and dignity they need and deserve. We need to #OpenTheIslands.

The EU-Turkey deal

My story is similar to those of millions of refugees from Syria and other countries. Conflict and persecution has torn our families apart, we had to leave our belongings behind, and our beautiful cities are no longer recognizable. We fled to survive and when we reached safety in Greece we were stopped and told to wait in inhumane conditions. That waiting has become living. While asylum seekers like me are waiting for their cases to be heard, our future is slipping away.

I am – we all are – trapped on Lesvos following the EU’s deal with Turkey, which was struck two years ago, in March 2016. As a direct result of the deal, Greece forces asylum seekers to stay on the island instead of being able to request asylum on the mainland or elsewhere in Europe.

The EU-Turkey deal has one main goal: to stop people from seeking asylum in Europe. But the effects of this deal on these people have been overlooked. They overlook the fact that a handful of bathrooms cannot be shared by the thousands who are forced to live in tents. That women and children face a real risk of sexual violence, abuse and harassment when they live in these overcrowded camps.

Lesvos, where Moria is, is a beautiful Greek island, but the camp is hell.

Being a refugee is not a choice

Every day I dream of going back home. But the place I call home is in ruins. When I think of home I think of my daily routine of working in a hospital in the morning and teaching English in the afternoon; I think of picnics in the park with my family over the weekends. Or just walking around Damascus, where I was born and raised.

Being a refugee is not a choice. I am stuck in Lesvos because I left my home when it became unsafe due to years of war.

If politicians came to visit Moria, I would ask them why they believe in policies that lead to overcrowded camps and insecurity for women and children. If European leaders came to visit Moria, I would ask them if they really think Moria is a place for people like me, like them. I would tell them that they have a responsibility to go home and remember us, remember what they see in Moria. I would ask them to let me rebuild my life.

Please send a tweet to Greek Prime Minister Tsipras and European leaders asking them to #OpenTheIslands

Dear EU Leaders: Look at me - Amal's Story

Dirty water – A killer claiming the lives of 1,000 children every day

For us, it’s as simple as turning on a tap. Yet for millions of people around the world, clean water is beyond their reach.

For them, there’s no sink to fill, no toilet to flush – and they are dying needlessly every day.

Across the globe, it’s estimated that almost 850 million people have no access to clean, safe drinking water, while 2.3 billion are living without basic sanitation. And almost 1,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhoea each day due to drinking contaminated water.

In countries like Niger, more than half of the population has no access to clean water, leaving them vulnerable to often fatal waterborne diseases. But Oxfam is there, providing clean, safe water and sanitation to communities as well as health centres treating the sick.

Dirty water could have claimed the life of two-year-old Fati.

 

Binta Boukary and her two-year-old daughter Fati (Fatima) in Dadaga Village, Ouallum Province, Niger. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith
 
Fati’s mother Binta said: “She had terrible stomach pains, fever… I was so worried; I couldn’t even sleep at night.”

Her little girl was rushed to hospital, where she stayed for 10 days. Even after she was released, she had to attend her local health centre a number of times before she recovered completely.

“When she [Fati] was sick, we were given medicines, special food, Aquatabs [water purification tabs] and the hygiene kit, soap etc,” said Binta. “This stuff was not available before.

“Today my little girl is well! She’s eating well, and can even eat the same as everyone else, a little millet porridge, some fruit, everything she’s given!”

Binta has been trained in hygiene and nutrition, and now works as a community health leader for Oxfam so that she can help other sick children.

€4/£3 a month from you for a year could provide safe water to a community health centre like the one where Fati was treated. Or €15/£10 can provide 7 people with safe drinking water during an emergency.

Your support could save the lives of other children like Fati. Please give what you can.

Thank you.

Donate now

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Rohingya Crisis

As the year draws to a close, the traumatic events of 2017 are still very raw for the Rohingya people. Hundreds and thousands of them have fled to Bangladesh since the summer, many wearing nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Their journeys from Myanmar were laden with misery and terror. Refugees witnessed pain and suffering on a massive scale – nightmares they will relive for many years to come. They spoke of rape and sexual violence, of young children being maimed and abused. They fled landmines and bullets and saw their loved ones die in cold blood.

By the end of November, the number of refugees in the Cox’s Bazaar district of Bangladesh had passed 836,000. Living in overcrowded camps with overflowing latrines and contaminated water, they face heavy rains and the 2018 cyclone season which threatens to wash away shelters and spread water-borne diseases.

Oxfam is on the ground providing safe drinking water, food and other essentials, and is ramping up its work before cyclone season hits.

In the meantime, the voices of those who have fled Myanmar are being heard – and their stories are harrowing.

Razida* (35) carries her 10-month-old son Anisul* through Unchiprang Camp in Bangladesh. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

“They burned my home and shot my husband dead,” said Razida* who spent six days walking to Bangladesh with her eight children. “The women and children ran away – we were safe, but the attackers surrounded the men and killed them so they couldn’t bring us anything. We had to even borrow money to cross the border.

"I left with all my children, I had to leave. How can I feel anything at all now? I’ve got shelter but no clean water and nowhere to shower. My children are sick and I am sick from worrying."

Fatima takes a rest in Dhokin Para school in Shah Puri Dwip after crossing over from Myanmar by boat two nights ago with her husband and young son. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

When Fatima’s house was burned down, she, her husband and their young son fled for their lives. Fatima was heavily pregnant when the family made their escape – but the lengthy journey was an ordeal for the expectant mother.

“Our house was burned down so we ran and we hid from village to village,” she explained. “I’m eight months pregnant and my feet are swollen. Yesterday when I arrived, I was in a bad condition. The locals fed me and gave me a wash.”

Elsewhere, others spoke of the horrific scenes they witnessed while fleeing to Bangladesh.

Setara* (47) with her daughter Nur*. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Setara (47), who made the journey with her parents and seven of her children, said: “We had to walk for three days without food. My girl was almost dying, I thought she would die on the way. We passed so many dead bodies on the way.”

“When I left I only had my children and the clothes on my back,” added Setara, who also revealed how her eldest son had been beaten and had disappeared.

These are the voices of just some of the Rohingya people who have had to flee unimaginable violence in recent months. This new year must offer these refugees a sense of security and hope for the future.

Please give what you can to help mothers like Razida*, Fatima* and Setara* and the families they will do anything to protect.

Thank you.

Greece intends to move 5000 people to mainland but thousands still trapped on islands

The Greek government has said that it intends to transfer 5,000 people from the Greek islands to the mainland before the start of winter. Responding to the news, Nicola Bay, head of mission for Oxfam in Greece, said:

“This is a very positive step that will save lives. People across Europe are asking for action and now it is imperative that people are moved quickly and in a safe and well-coordinated manner. Winter is just around the corner and thousands of people are still sharing unheated tents exposed to the bitter cold.

“Even if we could move all 5,000 people overnight, reception facilities on the islands will still be over capacity, unsafe and unsanitary."

“The Greek government and EU member states should now end their containment policy which has created a virtual ghetto at Europe's edge.”

Oxfam and 12 other human rights and humanitarian organizations launched a campaign on 1 December calling on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to immediately transfer 7,500 people to the mainland by 21 December and to end the containment policy that traps people on the Greek islands.

As of 1 December, reception facilities on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos were almost 7,200 over capacity: 12,744 people in facilities with a capacity of just 5,576. Last winter, three men died on Lesbos in the six days between January 24 and 30. Although there is still no official statement on the cause of these deaths, they have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from makeshift heating devices in their tents. The Greek government has previously transferred around 2,000 people from Samos and Lesbos to the mainland since early November as an emergency measure.

Oxfam calls for a change of approach in the EU’s Migration Agenda, which sets Europe’s policies on migration. An Oxfam report, based on extensive field experience, highlights the danger, abuse and denial of basic rights that people face linked to the Migration Agenda’s policies. Oxfam has developed eight principles for a more humane and effective approach.

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Two weeks into the Yemen blockade – Fuel, Food and Medicines Running Out

19 November 2017 

Two weeks since land, air and seaports in Yemen were closed, aid agencies are appalled by the complacency and indifference of the international community regarding the historic humanitarian disaster now unfolding.

Aid agencies are gravely concerned about a new outbreak of cholera and other water borne diseases. UNICEF warns that they only have 15 days’ left of diphtheria vaccines. They are due to receive a new shipment late November but still have not received clearance. If this vaccine is not brought in, one million children will be at risk of preventable diseases.

The fuel shortage in Yemen means clean water in the country is more and more scarce. Water networks are closing by the day as fuel for the pumps runs out and pipes run dry. The lack of water poses grave risks to young children most of all. Schools will become centres of disease rather than centres of knowledge.

With no fuel, hospitals are closing wards and struggling to operate intensive care units and surgical operation theatres. Refrigeration units for essential medicines are being turned off for periods of time to save fuel. Doctors, some of whom have not been paid for ten months, are asking INGOs and UN to share their small supplies of fuel to run their life-saving generators; INGOs are citing one month fuel supply only.

Agencies are starting to double the value of the cash distributions to the most vulnerable people. This will enable people to buy and stock food for the coming cold winter months before prices rise beyond their means. This means agencies will exhaust their funds allocated for next year. Additionally, aid agencies have grave concerns for wellbeing of people that are currently inaccessible.

The country’s stocks of wheat and sugar will not last for longer than three months if cargo vessels are not allowed to discharge in Hodeidah, the country’s only deep water seaport, in the next few days. Even if they are allowed, food distribution systems have been severely disrupted and may collapse within weeks. Moreover, having incurred so many additional costs and in a highly volatile environment, international traders may decide that importing to Yemen is too risky a proposition to continue.

The international community must break its shameful silence and use all possible means to lift the blockade on Yemen immediately. Hodeidah port, that serviced 80% of all imports, and Sana’a airport, needs to be reopened to let in urgently needed shipments of food, fuel, and medicines. Every day the blockade lasts means thousands of Yemenis will suffer from hunger and preventable diseases. Millions could die in a historic famine if the blockade continues indefinitely. This is not the time for carefully balanced statements. The choice is between resolution, or complicity in the suffering; there is no third option.

 

Daniel English

Oxfam Ireland

086 3544954 

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